Data: Materialities, Infrastructures, Critiques

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Alison Richard Building, Sidgwick Site

Cambridge Digital Humanities (CDH) invites scholars working with or on topics relating to (big) data, computation, artificial intelligence, and the tech-industry to a one-day interdisciplinary workshop on data—their histories, politics, forms, ontologies, medias, spatio-temporalities, and extensive use consequences.

The workshop seeks to understand recent transformations in data, changing from something that had to be manually and meticulously created, with clear and traceable source paths, to something that is now automated, hyperlinked, and big. With rapid evolution of infrastructures that support data storage and signalling, such as server farms, subsea cabling, and satellites, the materialities of data have become more and more occluded, concealed behind, say, the cloud, a metaphor for an ecologically extractive, planetary-scale industry. How have these changes influenced the tech-industrial conceptions of data and AI as such, as well as many of our everyday lives?

Some of the discussions we are interested in: histories of data and the tech-industry, ecologies of data; data subjects (and data shadows); anthropological approaches to data; post- and non-human approaches to data; materialities and immaterialities of data; data, power and the tech industry; political economies of data; culture studies and literary approaches to data; histories and prehistories of data (datum, ledgers); questions of data sovereignty; ‘abodes’ of data (libraries, archives, server stacks); Indigenous and Postcolonial appraisals of data; data in relation to state and statehood, and the legal instruments that allow for data trading and extraction.

The workshop is a mix of short (5 to 10min) paper presentations and collaborative roundtable discussions. We hope that our roundtables bring researchers together to find intersections between their work and their disciplines, opening up pathways for further collaborations. We welcome expressions of interest from scholars at any stage of their careers. Please include your name, affiliation, and area of research in the email. If you would like to be part of a panel or a roundtable discussion, also send us a title, and a one-sentence description for a short (5 to 10min) presentation by 15 May 2023. Send your emails to Amira (, Siddharth ( or Alina (

Convenors: Anne Alexander, Hugo Leal, Amira Moeding, Julia Rone, Siddharth Soni, Alina Utrata